On the granting of bail to Lt. Col. Kapunan: Letting the big fish get away

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)

It was twenty-seven years ago to this day when rogue members of the military ruthlessly and calculatingly snatched, tortured,  and killed Rolando “Ka Lando” Olalia and Ka Leonor Alay-ay to make a political statement. The Decision of the Antipolo court that discreetly handed down the ruling on bail for the accused retired military colonel last month makes a statement of its own, hopefully unwittingly: we’ll let the small fry suffer and the big fish go scot-free.

Granting bail to one of the masterminds, Lt. Col. Eduardo Kapunan, and in the same breath denying it to two co-accused low in rank, is a nail into the coffin of justice. Why the Decision found evidence of guilt strong against Sgts. Dennis Jabatan and Desiderio Perez, the men who participated in the surveillance, abduction and murder, and not against Kapunan escapes logic, reason and experience.

The same state witnesses have pointed to Kapunan, then the intelligence officer of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM), as the one of the higher-ups who sanctioned the killings; even Kapunan himself admitted in court that he and his exclusive circle were then in charge of “naughty jobs”. Why put blame only to those whose hands actually pulled the trigger, or thrusted the knife, or gouged the eyes, or stuffed the mouths, and not to the minds credible testimonies indubitably point to as having hatched the crime?

The Olalia-Alay-ay double murder is a classic case of all things awry in the Philippine legal system – stretched through almost three decades of litigation, mired in controversial liabilities, checkered with resort to technicalities,  marked by impunity. It stands as a brazen, monumental testament to how much the law indeed inexorably tilts in favor of the influential, of the high and mighty.

Ten other accused are still at large: Ret. Col. Oscar Legaspi, Filomeno Maligaya, Cirilo Almario, Jose Bacera, Fernando Casanova, Ricardo Dicon, Gilbert Galicia, Gene Paris, Freddie Sumagaysay, and Edger Sumido. And as RAM leaders Juan Ponce-Enrile and Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan sit in the Senate, it seems to many that no force of law or legal prosecution can make them all account for their past antics.

When the hammer finally falls, the Olalia and Alay-ay families, victims many times over, have nothing to show for their dogged pursuit of truth and justice. From one Aquino administration to the next, it has been nothing but an uphill battle to find the peace and punishment for such an outrageous injury – the loss of Ka Lando was a loss for the Philippine labor movement and the post-Martial law movement for democracy as well.

The present Aquino administration has failed in ensuring not only accountability for the past, but also protection against military adventurism and excesses in the future. With many erring military leaders like Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan at large for so long now, no Filipino has the right to feel safe whether inside or outside the confines of this volatile and merciless political system.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, private prosecutors in the case, today honors the memory of Ka Lando and Ka Leonor by staunchly heeding, together with workers, community leaders, and activists, the clarion call for change. For as long as we let the big fish go, this country will forever be a disaster zone, reeling from storm to storm as the waters beat us black and blue.


Edre U. Olalia
NUPL Secretary General

National Secretariat
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL)
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